Love is a Powerful Connection
How it works
“Love is a powerful connection one has with a significant other based on trust, respect, and communication. Many see love as an aspiration to hopefully seek in life, but it is not so easy to attain. Especially hopeless romantic individuals who sadly can be manipulated and taken advantage of, in the name of love. In the novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, the author portrays an individual’s struggle with love through the main character, Janie and her multiple attempts of a husband.
Hurston tries to tell the reader about what the nature of a truly loving relationship should include, but also paying close attention to what marriage should not be based upon. The novel takes place in a society where a marriage is not based on whether love is apparent but which suitable bachelor is the most well-off and could provide a sustainable lifestyle for a young maiden. Thus, in such a traditional society both the man and the woman have certain roles that they must play in the name of sustainability. The man must provide for his family, thorough work and deal with any issues that present his household. While the woman, must take care of the household, especially her husband at the end of the work day. For a young maiden such as Janie, who aspired an equal relationship based on the caring and love for one another and not interested about the idealistic roles of both genders. Hurston explains the honorable and dishonorable traits of love through Janie’s relationships with Logan Killicks, Joe Starks and Vergible “ Tea Cake” Woods.
Janie’s grandmother Nanny Crawford, plays a major role in allowing Janie to ease in to the traditionalist marriage and creating an illusion of love. Nanny wants to see Janie married before her death and see her being taken care off financially. To succeed, she plans for Janie to get married to Logan Killicks, who has 60 acres and is seen as being financially comfortable for his social class. Logan symbolizes despair and loneliness for Janie, since Janie cannot seem to be physically be attracted to him, due to his old age and worn appearance. In contrast, Janie appears to be young and full of life. A sad case of opposites not being able to attract. Hypothetically, Logan to Janie is a distraction of what love could truly be. Jane is skeptic of her relationship with Logan, but holds onto hope based on what nanny says, which is that through time, they will learn to love and appreciate one another. Janie’s desperation for sweet love is evident when she says “Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think. Ah…” (Hurston 24) Hurston tries to show how Janie still wants to hold on to the illusion of a loving marriage and how important it is in a relationship for both partners to feel love and a sweet connection.
The traditionalist marriage of sustainability is not for Janie, it does not allow her to live up to her dream of an equal love. Although in the beginning of their marriage Logan tries to win over Janie’s love through sweet-nothings, it quickly turns to frustration and anger. Logan’s idea of marriage is based on control and dominance that he as a husband has over his wife. Janie to him is seen as property and feels under-appreciated that he made Janie the wife of the man with sixty acres. His frustration with Janie is seen when he tells her, “Mah fust wife never bothered me ‘bout choppin’ no wood nohow. She’d grab dat ax and sling chips like uh man. You done been spoilt rotten.” (Hurston 26). Traditionally, “women are meant to be inside”, thus when Janie disagrees with Logan about her working with him, she seen as being rotten for not following the orders of her husband, “like a woman should do”. This only creates more separation for both Logan and Janie due to lack of communication, appreciation and understanding. Eventually this would lead to Janie running away with Joe Starks. Hurston includes Janie’s marriage to Logan to project how in a relationship, equality must be present at all times and communication is vital to not only understand each other’s wishes, but to solve problems effectively.
Joe Starks differs from Logan Killicks based on appearance since Joe seems to be more charismatic, well- dressed representing him as an entrepreneur leader, this attracts Janie who seeks for a better life. After Janie runs away with Joe, temporarily everything seems fine between the couple once they were established in Eatonville. This new relationship creates an illusion for Janie, since everything seems to be going perfectly for the mayor and his wife. However as Janie begins to learn more about Joe, she begins to unravel his character. Joe is power-hungry and lacks communication with Janie, which leads to his over-jealous behavior. Janie to Joe is seen as his trophy wife for him to flaunt his power by dressing her in expensive dresses that makes all the other women inferior to her. Her marvelous hair attracts attention, which seems to anger Joe since Janie belongs to him. Joe tries to minimize her beauty by forcing Janie to wear a hair rag when the author states, “He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store… She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others.(Hurston 31)
Joes treatment of women defies him since he views women as objects, his prized possession. Hurston message based on Joes actions towards Janie tries to show the reader that viewing women as possession will never lead to a relationship of equality, since the man will always believe he is right and his woman must obey. Also the lack of communication of Joe not revealing his jealously creates further separation between the couple. Janie’s emotional distance is apparent when she realizes that she is more than just a possession, she has a voice and intelligence but sadly she will never be able to express her voice while she is the mayor’s wife. Joe’s stubborn behavior about the intelligence of women is seen when he states, “Somebody got to think for women and chillen and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none their selves” (Hurston 54) The author includes this dialogue to again show Joe’s possessive nature and his inability to view women as equal. Even during his death bed, Joe is stubborn will not listen to Janie and curses her before his last breath.
Veritable “ Tea Cake” Woods was Janie’s true love, after a struggle with love, Janie found what she has been looking for. Tea Cake differed from Janie’s past husbands, he viewed Janie some-what as an equal, the treatment of equality is evident when Tea Cake is willing to teach Janie how to play checkers. This shows how Tea Cake viewed Janie intelligent enough for her to learn the same game, he as a man knows. One can see how Hurston includes such interaction to project to the reader that there are men out there that appreciate women and see them as people instead of a possession. Hurston shows Janie’s emotions about the game when she states, “ He set up and began to show her and she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play!!, somebody thought it was natural for her to play”(Hurston 98) Janie’s cry for equality has finally been answered by a young man who seems to appreciate and understand women more than her older husbands who should’ve been more intelligent.
Tea Cake also breaks down the traditionalist roles of men and women, when he asks Janie to work with him in the Everglades. Although Janie has refused to help her previous husbands with labor, he reasons that he wants to spend as much time with her as possible, thus he views her as a companion. Their destruction of traditional roles is seen when the author states, “It was generally assumed that she thought her self too good for work like the rest of the women and that Tea Cake “pumped her up like dat”…Then Tea Cake would help her get supper afterwards.”(Hurston 110) The significance behind this quote is how the couple has adapted equality and are too advanced for their traditionalist society, since it was rare for a man to help his woman in the kitchen. Hurston makes Tea Cake to be different from Logan and Joe to show how his open communication with Janie, allows them to easily be able to address and solve any issue. They also reassure on another about the love they have with each other. The author ends Janie’s struggle of finding love with Tea Cake to send a message that a relationship should somewhat have the same characteristics that Janie and Tea Cake companionship has. Also how equal treatment makes a drastic difference in such a conservative restricted society.
In conclusion, Hurston shows the reader how finding true love is a struggle and a journey that requires multiple tries. She proves how traditional roles are not always successful and sometimes need to be revised to allow for better relationships. Janie started out as a young maiden unexperienced with what love is and living an illusion of inequality and being undervalued, in the end she is educated on what a relationship must include versus when to know things are not working out. Logan and Joe both being much older than Janie, truly represent a traditional society which clearly has been ineffective with Janie. Hurston shows how their traits of being narcissistic, lack of communication, and inability to view woman more than possession results in a dangerous relationship that should be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, Hurston portrays the qualities she believes should be included in a truly loving relationship through Tea Cake. Tea Cake represent somewhat the future and how progressive his behavior is. His traits of being understanding, ability to communicate clearly, and able to see Janie as equal, allow for their relationship to thrive. Hurston is able to guide many readers through the experience of her characters to allow her voice to be heard and her clear message, to help many individuals to wake up from a dangerous illusion of love and to finally demand to be heard and appreciated equally.”